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In our fast-paced 21st century world where everything is available in an instant and distractions are everywhere it can be a real challenge for children and teenagers to stay focused and concentrate in a learning environment. The worry and uncertainty of the last few years has added to the pressures on young minds too, with increasing numbers of children and teenagers finding it difficult to achieve and maintain a sense of calm and balance. Nurturing healthy growing minds that are able to learn well, be resilient in the face of adversity and have reserves of inner calm has become a high priority in our busy modern world.

Starve distractions - feed focus
Clearly, environmental influences have a part to play when it comes to nurturing healthy growing minds; factors such as helping children and teenagers to set boundaries around digital distractions, finding time to get moving regularly and building in opportunities to switch off completely are absolutely key. And there are nutritional factors to consider too; the brain is a hungry organ and needs feeding well to perform at its optimal best. There are key nutrients and ingredients that can specifically help to support vital cognitive functions such as focus, concentration, learning, memory, calm and balance in children and teenagers.

Let’s take a closer look.

Top 3 nutrients to help growing minds thrive in a busy world:

1. Magnesium
At the top of the list is magnesium; a mighty mineral that is a co-factor in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body, including many involved in energy production, sleep, calm and a balanced stress response. Magnesium’s vital role in energy production is highly relevant for cognitive functions such as concentration, focus, learning and memory; this is because the brain is one of the body’s largest consumers of energy.  Without enough energy, the brain cannot function optimally, and magnesium is required to fire these energy processes. Magnesium is also essential for calming things down. In fact, it is often nicknamed ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ because it helps to support a balanced stress response, good quality sleep and calms the nervous system. As you are probably starting to realise, magnesium is a pretty vital mineral for growing children and teenagers, yet a typical Western diet often doesn’t contain enough.  Much of the soil in which our food is grown has become low in this important mineral and many modern day processing techniques strip magnesium from our food. Factors such as chronic stress, infection, poor sleep, exercise, salt, caffeine and fizzy drinks all increase the risks of magnesium depletion too. Magnesium is found in higher amounts in wholefoods cooked from scratch, leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans. Instead, many children and teenagers reach for refined and processed convenience foods, and sugary drinks and snacks, which means they’re unlikely to be getting enough. Whilst increasing the magnesium content of children and teenagers’ diets is always the first port of call, it may also be useful to add extra magnesium in supplement form to ensure they’re consuming enough to meet these extensive needs. And this may be even more important if they have periods of intense learning ahead, such as exams and tests, or are going through a growth spurt which puts additional pressure on energy production processes. Magnesium is best supplemented in glycinate form, as this is well absorbed and tolerated by even the most sensitive tummies. A powdered supplement is beneficial as many children struggle to take tablets or capsules, and allows for flexible dosing too.

2. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)
B vitamins often work together in the body and are typically referred to as the ‘B complex vitamins’. They are found in differing amounts in food sources such as whole grains, leafy green vegetables, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products. B vitamins are water soluble and most can’t be stored in the body, which means they must be regularly supplied by the diet. B vitamins are intricately involved in energy production, and like magnesium, are required to nourish the energy hungry brain to support optimal cognitive processes such as concentration, memory and focus. Of particular note is vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) which is not only involved in energy production but also helps to support the structure and function of brain cells, is involved in the production of many brain signalling messengers (neurotransmitters) and needed to make stress hormones too. In fact, B vitamins are often nicknamed ‘anti-stress’ nutrients for their powerful ability to balance mood and calm the nervous system. Low levels of B vitamins can influence memory, cognitive function, energy levels, mood, anxiety and the ability to cope with stress. Similar to magnesium, many B vitamins are lost during refining and processing techniques and thus can be lacking in a typical Western diet. It is important therefore to pay particular attention to regular dietary intake, especially during the childhood and teenage years when B vitamins are in high demand. B vitamins can be safely supplemented as a group, and this may be particularly helpful to support the increased needs of growing minds.

3. Lemon balm (Bluenesse® Melissa Officinalis Extract)
Although not a nutrient, the incredible benefits of the herb lemon balm make it almost essential for children and teenagers as they navigate the demands of school and growing up. Bluenesse® lemon balm is an exclusive, innovative extract of lemon balm (Melissa Officinalis) which has been studied in research trials. Research has demonstrated that Bluenesse® lemon balm supports cognitive performance, improving alertness, concentration, mental focus, and working memory. In addition, it supports inner calm, balanced mood and improves the ability to cope with stress. Research studies have shown that the effects of Bluenesse® lemon balm supplementation can be felt within one hour of intake and are still measurable after three hours. Lemon balm is an incredible herb, with an impressive safety profile and wide-ranging benefits, which makes it ideal for children and teenagers. This quote from Dr Tieraona Low Dog (MD) beautifully sums up the benefits of the herb lemon balm for busy growing minds; “lemon balm’s genus name is Melissa (meaning ‘honey bee’), and I think this herb is perfect for busy little bees.

Feeding growing minds
Whilst it is always important to look to the diet first to optimise nutrient intake; the heavy demands of a busy Western world on children and teenagers, especially during school years, coupled with a typically nutrient poor Western diet mean that supplementation with targeted nutrition to support focus, concentration, learning, balance and calm may deliver significant benefits. Bluenesse® lemon balm combines well with magnesium, B vitamins and even other essential nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D3 & K2 to provide synergistic and much needed support for growing minds in a busy world.

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